AIDS Orphans in Gabon Want a Better Future
AIDS orphans share their vision and aspiration
"We are children and teenagers in our own right. We have a right to education, health, and protection too," declared Jessica (name changed) at the postponed World AIDS Orphans Day event at Libreville University Hospital Outpatient Treatment Centre.
This young 18-year-old girl, who has lived with HIV since birth, spoke about the impact her father's death has had on her own daily life. This sort of experience has repercussions for AIDS orphans' education, health and their relationships with others.
"Being an orphan is difficult. Host families often have limited resources," she added. Some orphans also face stigmatisation and discrimination, while others have to take responsibility for their brothers and sisters at a very early age because the families don't. They go through all sorts of emotions.
Jessica spoke for children who do not have a voice, urging parents, leaders and Gabonese society in general to remember this vulnerable part of the population as a priority when defending human rights. According to figures from the centre’s Chief Medical Officer, 380 children and teenagers are currently being treated as outpatients. Two thirds of those children have lost at least one parent. Most live in families that are vulnerable in socio-economic terms and, as a result, face challenges in terms of diet, education and sanitation.
Jessica lives with her mother, also HIV-positive, and her three brothers who are HIV-negative. They receive medical supervision, try to talk about their HIV-positive status at home, and take precautions to avoid any injuries.
Children living with HIV need support to guarantee their quality of life and ensure they receive biomedical care, nutritional guidance, education and assistance with other needs.
Since 2019, UNICEF has supported the paediatric outpatient centre in various ways so that it can provide psychological and social care for vulnerable children and teenagers receiving treatment. 75 young people in difficult situations receive biomedical care and support.